Monday, October 27, 2008

Week of October 26, 2008

Updated 10/31

Vermont's forests threatened by invasive insects

By Ross Sneyd, Vermont Public Radio

(Host) Vermont's forests are threatened by three insects that could devastate stands of many tree species, including the state's trademark sugar maple.

Officials hope to keep timber and firewood out of the state that could be harboring the tiny bugs.
VPR's Ross Sneyd has this report.

(Sneyd) On all sides, Vermont is surrounded by states that already have been infested by tiny insects that literally eat trees to death.

From New Hampshire, there's the hemlock woolly adelgid. They've already been found in Vermont.

The Asian longhorned beetle has infested 18 square miles in central Massachusetts.

New York is trying to hold off emerald ash borer. Just this summer that insect was found 40 miles north of Vermont's border with Quebec.

(Turmel) "So, yeah, we're right in the middle and we're pretty nervous about it.''

(Sneyd) State entomologist Jon Turmel is out in the field surveying Christmas tree lots for pests.

The Christmas trees look OK. But the state's hardwoods could be in danger. More


Emerald pest killing ash trees; could hit New York

By Brian Dwyer,

OSWEGO COUNTY, N.Y. -- "The Emerald Ash Borer is a small shiny metallic green beetle. It's about a half an inch long." Salmon River Seward Greg Chapman said.

It's amazing how something so small can cause so much damage.

However, the Emerald Ash Borer, first found in the U.S. six years ago, has killed millions of trees in the Midwest and Northeast by feeding on the tree's water and nutrient system.

"The Emerald Ash Borer has been shown to cause just massive die-offs of ash in the areas where it has been found. There's almost a 100% mortality rate of trees in those areas,” Chapman said.

It's not yet been found in New York, but it's been confirmed in Quebec, Ontario and Pennsylvania, all of which border New York. Experts say there's serious reason for concern. Article


Pesticide For Zebra and Quagga Mussels

From Midwest Lakes Policy Center blog

Researchers from the New York State Museum have developed a bacterial toxin to control zebra and quagga mussels that is environmentally friendly. The two invasive species from the Caspian and Black Seas have clogged water-intake pipes at factories and power plants around the world and throughout the Great Lakes Basin.

The bio-pesticide was derived from a common soil bacterium. When ingested in large quantities, the bacterium is lethal to zebra and quagga mussels, but is harmless to other organisms and humans. Blog


Million Dollar Milestone in the Adirondack Park

New York State bolstered efforts to combat invasive species in the Adirondack region when it approved the contract with the Adirondack Chapter of The Nature Conservancy to provide $1.3 million to operate the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program (APIPP) for five years. Funds support three full-time staff who facilitate invasive species coordination, early detection, monitoring, control, research, education and spread prevention in the Adirondacks. APIPP was the first of eight Partnerships for Regional Invasive Species Management to receive state funds for core coordination.


Invasive species may be linked to canal

Associated Press

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) - Experts from Vermont and New York are to meet next week to talk about whether the Champlain Canal plays a role bringing invasive species to Lake Champlain.

Experts say the movement of water and boats through the canal that links Lake Champlain with the Hudson River is a likely path by which some invasive species have reached the lake.

Biologists say there are nearly 50 invasive species in Lake Champlain, including zebra mussels and Eurasian milfoil.

But 184 invasive species have been recorded in the Great Lakes, 87 in the St. Lawrence River and 91 in the Hudson River.

The Nov. 6 meeting in Fort Edward, N.Y., is sponsored by the Lake Champlain Basin Program and the New York State Champlain Canal Corp.

Information from: The Burlington Free Press,



Earthworm activity can alter forests' carbon-carrying capabilities

Earthworms can change the chemical nature of the carbon in North American forest litter and soils, potentially affecting the amount of carbon stored in forests, according to Purdue University researchers.

The Purdue scientists, along with collaborators from the Smithsonian Institution and Johns Hopkins University, study the habits of earthworms originally brought to North America from Europe. They want to determine the earthworms' effect on forest chemistry by comparing carbon composition in forests that vary in earthworm activity.

Some earthworms eat fallen leaves and other plant material - the litter of the forest floor - while others eat roots or soil organic matter. This begins a decomposition process in which organic materials pass through the animals' digestive tracts and back into the soil.

The research team found that forests with greater numbers of invasive earthworms tend to have litter and soil organic matter enriched in the plant material lignin, which is typically harder for bacteria to decompose, said Purdue biogeochemist Timothy Filley. Sites with low numbers of these earthworms accumulate plant carbon in forms more easily degraded by bacteria.

Overall, the amount of carbon in the litter and duff layer, which is the surface mat of decaying organic matter and roots, decreases because of earthworm activity. However, the change in carbon chemistry may make it harder for soil organisms to decompose the carbon remains. After earthworms feed on forest litter, they take the carbon down into the soil and mix it in, potentially leading to a buildup of carbon in the soil.

"If the litter just stays on the surface of the soil, then it's likely that normal oxidation of organic matter happens and a lot of that carbon will just go into the atmosphere," said Cliff Johnston, a Purdue environmental chemist and professor of agronomy. "However, if carbon can bind to the soil particles, such as clay, it might be a long-term way of stabilizing carbon."

Another way earthworm activity may affect the fate of carbon and the environment is in the thickness of layers of leaves and debris left on forest floors. Bare soil is generally very dark, absorbing more sunlight, which may dry it out quickly. A layer of lightly colored leaves is moderately reflective and holds moisture near the soil. Either condition may affect factors such as the warming of forest soil and the timing of snowmelt.

"Ultimately, we will look at such things to determine the potential invasive earthworms have in changing the flux of CO2 out of the forest and how much that could impact climate change," said Filley, who also is an associate professor of earth and atmospheric sciences.

The earthworms that the team studies were brought to North America by early European colonists, probably in the ships' ballasts or in plant soil. In northern North American forests the settlers found land devoid of such creatures because the worms never reoccupied soils formed when the glaciers melted. Link


Game Commission Removes Protection on Feral Swine

HARRISBURG, Pa., Oct 27, 2008 /PRNewswire-USNewswire via COMTEX/ -- Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe recently rescinded protection on feral swine found in the wild in Butler, Bedford and Cambria counties.

"In May, when we removed protection on feral swine in Pennsylvania, we maintained the protection on them in Butler, Bedford and Cambria counties to facilitate trapping by the U.S. and Pennsylvania departments of Agriculture," Roe said. "Trapping is viewed as the most effective way to remove feral swine from the wild, because it limits their dispersal into new areas.

"However, as we are now outside the time of year in which trapping is most effective, we want to afford hunters the maximum opportunity to remove feral swine that they encounter while participating in the upcoming big game seasons."

The Game Commission has determined that the eradication of feral swine from Pennsylvania is necessary to prevent further harm to public and private property, threats to native wildlife and disease risks for wildlife and the state's pork industry.

"We are not seeking to establish a hunting season for feral swine, but rather we are committed to rid Pennsylvania of this invasive species," Roe said.

Licensed hunters, including those who qualify for license and fee exemptions, are eligible to participate in the unlimited taking of feral swine. They may use manually-operated rifles, revolvers or shotguns, as well as and muzzleloaders, bows and crossbows. All other methods and devices legal for taking feral swine must be conducted in compliance with the provisions of Section 2308 of Title 34 (Game and Wildlife Code), which can be viewed on the agency's website ( in the "Laws & Regulations" section in the left-hand column of the homepage.

Any person who kills a feral swine must report it to the Game Commission Region Office that serves the county in which the harvest took place within 24 hours. Residents who witness feral swine also are urged to contact the Region Office that serves their county. For contact information, as well as list of counties that each region office serves, visit the Game Commission's website (, click on the "Contact Us" link in the left-hand column of the homepage and scroll down to "Region Offices."

Nearly 25 states across the nation have persistent and possibly permanent populations of feral swine established in the wild, and Pennsylvania is one of 16 new states where introduction is more recent and may still be countered through decisive eradication efforts.

Feral swine have been declared to be an injurious, non-native, invasive species of concern in Pennsylvania that are suspected to have been introduced into the wilds of this Commonwealth through a variety of means, including both intentional and unintentional releases. Feral swine also have been determined to pose a significant, imminent and unacceptable threat to this Commonwealth's natural resources, including wildlife and its habitats; the agricultural industry, including crop and livestock production; the forest products industry; and human health and safety. Article


Spiny water flea found in New York lake

GREAT SACANDAGA LAKE, NY — The spiny water flea, an aquatic invasive species, has been confirmed in the Great Sacandaga Lake by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

This DEC officials said this confirmation marks the first time the spiny water flea has been confirmed in an inland body of water. It had previously been identified in the Great Lakes.

"Unfortunately, another invasive species has spread in the waters of New York state," said Steve Sanford, chief of DEC's Office of Invasive Species. "We are doing our best to alert fishermen, boaters and all users of New York waters to the presence of the spiny water flea and to promote practices that minimize the spread of these non-natives."

Native to Eurasia, the spiny water flea is a crustacean that can have a major impact on aquatic life because of its rapid reproduction rates. In warmer water, the spiny water flea can hatch, grow to maturity, and lay eggs in as few as two weeks. Sometimes its eggs can remain in a dormant state for years before hatching, making tracking it and limiting its spread difficult.

Spiny water fleas were first found in Lake Huron in 1984 and in Lake Erie and Lake Ontario a year later.

It is not known how or when they were introduced into Great Sacandaga Lake, thoguh DEC officials specualted the adult, larvae or eggs may have been brought in by bait bucket, bilge water, live well, boat, canoe, kayak, trailer or fishing equipment. Article


Saturday, October 25, 2008

Week of October 19, 2008

Wild Boar in Massachusetts

Massachusetts State police said a 200-pound Russian wild boar was euthanized after being struck by a vehicle on Route 2 in Lancaster this week. Monte Chandler of the U.S. Department of Agriculture said there are no Russian boar populations in Massachusetts. Lisa Capone, spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, confirmed that the animal was a wild boar. The animal likely escaped from a game farm because Massachusetts does not have a native, free-roaming wild boar population, she said.

In Pennsylvania, breeding populations of wild boar are believed to currently exist in two counties (Bedford and Cambria), where pregnant females and young have recently been seen and killed. Damage caused by feral hogs to wildlife, habitat and property has been reported in the southwest, southcentral and northeast regions of the state. Two additional counties, Montgomery and Warren, have unconfirmed sightings of young and/or pregnant sows. Feral hogs are classified as an invasive species by the Pennsylvania Invasive Species Council.


Scientists Sort Out “Who's Who” Among Australian Pine Species

By Marcia Wood, ARS, USDA

Invasive Australian pines that crowd out native plants in Florida present a particular conundrum. In the Sunshine State, it can be very difficult to tell the look-alike Casuarina species and subspecies from one another.

Correct identification is important to the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists who want to import Casuarina-quelling insects from the invasive tree's Australian homeland to stop the plants' uncontrolled advance in Florida. But until they know who’s who among the confusing Casuarina trees, researchers won’t be able to precisely match the helpful insects with the exact Casuarina with which they evolved in Australia. Perfect matches may be critical to the insects’ success in the United States.

To solve the identity puzzle, ARS botanist and research leader John Gaskin is analyzing DNA taken from Casuarina trees growing in Australia, where their identification is certain. He’s comparing that to DNA from the Casuarina trees currently running amok in south Florida.


Fending Off Invaders a Full-Time Job at the Delaware Coast

By Andrew Ostroski, Delaware Coast Press

LEWES -- They creep in and smother the living. They're invasive species -- plants that don't naturally inhabit an area -- and they're nothing new to Delaware's coast.

And while experts say some local residents have helped them flourish, the state Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control is taking measures to ensure they don't take too large a toll on native plants.

At Cape Henlopen State Park, volunteers are working to stop the growth of the Wisteria vine, an invasive species from Eastern Asia that has killed some vegetation and is threatening several acres more. The vine was believed to have been planted decades ago.

According to Rob Line, director of environmental stewardship with DNREC's Division of Parks and Recreation, there's something sinister behind these seemingly unassuming plants. While the vine grows along bike trails and along the park's fishing pier, it blocks sunlight for other vegetation, eventually killing other plants.

"These are ecosystem changers," he said. "There are literally hundreds of plants that are not native to the Mid-Atlantic states that we use all the time. But the ones we worry about are the ones that can go in and change an entire plant ecosystem."

The invaders

According to Line, there are a number of species that have overrun portions of land near the coast.

"The No. 1 issue that we're seeing is with the Japanese black pine tree (Pinus thunbergii)," he said. "It's commonly used as a landscaping plant."

Also inhabiting the coast is the Asian sand sedge (Carex kobomugi), a salt-tolerant plant that competes with American beach grass, Line said. And there's also the Chinese lespideza, a low shrub that often grows on roadsides; the Oriental bittersweet vine, low bushes that have been known to grow into trees; and several other species of plants that environmental groups are hoping to control.


Monday, October 13, 2008

Week of October 12, 2008

Updated 10/17

Biocontrol plans for Japanese knotweed in UK

From, About Science-Nature

A superweed spreading throughout the UK could be brought under control by introducing plant-eating predators from Japan, scientists believe.

Now a team of scientists has identified natural predators from its native home that could also control it in the UK.

The plans have been submitted to the government for approval.

Dick Shaw, the lead researcher on the project, from Cabi, a not-for-profit agricultural research organisation, said: “In 2000, we went out to Japan to see whether the plant had any natural enemies that it had lost when it came here.

“We found that it had a lot: there were 186 species of plant-eating insects and about 40 species of fungi.”

The team then began to test the predators to find those that only had an appetite for Japanese knotweed - and not any other plants.

Eventually, the list was whittled down to two: a sap-sucking psyllid insect (Aphalara itadori) and a leaf spot fungus from the genus Mycosphaerella.

Dr Shaw told the BBC: “We have done some efficacy trials here in the lab and they are showing a significant impact.” Article


Variable-leaf milfoil found in Vermont

WATERBURY, VT – Aquatic biologists at the Agency of Natural Resources have confirmed the arrival a new invasive plant in Vermont, variable-leaved watermilfoil, in Halls Lake in Newbury.

This is the first confirmation of a new invasive aquatic plant in Vermont since European frogbit was found in Lake Champlain in the early 1990s.

The variable-leaved watermilfoil identification was confirmed by genetic analysis conducted by Dr. Ryan Thum of Grand Valley State University in Michigan.

Vegetatively, variable-leaved looks almost identical to a rare watermilfoil in Vermont. In this case, genetic identification was important as all the plants in the lake had no reproductive parts to confirm identification without this analysis.

Variable-leaved is a popular aquarium trade species and is a potential vector for invasive aquatic plant spread. The agency, in cooperation with the Agency of Agriculture, Foods and Markets, inspects Vermont aquarium retailers annually. Just recently, officials found two retailers in southern Vermont selling variable-leaved watermilfoil.

Staff at the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Water Quality Division have deployed rapid-response initiatives this week to remove the nuisance plant from the lake, which appears to be limited to a small two-acre cove at the southern end.

“We may have a rare opportunity to prevent further spread of this plant in Halls Lake and to other waters in Vermont,” said Ann Bove, an aquatic biologist at the agency. “A continued response is critical to success.”

Variable-leaved watermilfoil (Myriophyllum heterophyllum) is not native to Vermont and can be difficult to control once established. It is aggressive and grows rapidly, is easily spread by plant pieces and can displace beneficial native aquatic plants, said Bove.

Like Eurasian watermilfoil, already present in Vermont, variable-leaved watermilfoil can also make swimming, boating and other recreational uses difficult. New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts and New York have been plagued by this species for a number of years.

Early detection is vital to protecting Vermont’s waterbodies from harmful invasive plants and animals. The agency’s Vermont Invasive Patrollers (VIPs) program monitors local waterbodies for new introductions of invasive species while also learning about native aquatic plants and animals and their habitats. For more information on becoming a VIP, visit